It’s 26 days before your adventure on the high seas. Let’s talk money! If you are on a cruise, chances are you are traveling to ports outside of the US. Today is the day on your 30 day countdown to your cruise to take a look at the currency in the ports you are visiting and if they will accept your credit cards. You will also do a little research to see if it is in your best interest to get some of the local currency to use. Always be sure to choose the appropriate foreign currency and credit cards for your cruise. Remember that if your cruise ship is a cashless ship, your credit card for your purchases while aboard. Know your credit limit!
Credit Cards for Your Cruise
We always suggest that you check with your credit card company to see if you will be getting charged only the exchange rate for purchases out of the country, or, if you will also be assessed a Foreign Transaction Fee on top of the exchange rate. This makes a big difference! Also, many countries make it easy to get local currency out of an ATM Machine. Check the charges.
Exchange rates. Each credit card company sets their exchange rate in different ways. Some companies have their own currency conversion procedures and some use the government mandated exchange rates for the date of your purchase. Who knew?!
Questions to ask your Credit Card Company on Day 26 before your cruise.
- Let them know that you will be using your card out of the country.
- I am going to ______ Can I use my credit card in this country?
- Are there Foreign Transaction fees above the exchange rate?
- What are the fees to use an ATM out of the country?
- How do they set your exchange rates?
- What is the Toll Free International Phone Number in Case you have issues or lose your card? And what is a local telephone number for the ports you will be in?
- What is my Credit Card Limit?
FACT– 57% of Credit Union Cards have Foreign Transaction fees out of the country and 91% of bank cards do. Capital One has become a favorite of world travelers as they promote cards with no fees.
FACT– Remember that you will be charged in the currency of the country not in US dollars.
FACT – If you are using a credit card with a chip in it, depending on what country you are in they may ask to see your Passport as proof of ID. Many countries will not let you use a chip credit card without your passport.
We found this great website that was suggested by the LA Times to research best travel credit cards. If you find you need a different card than your current ones, check this site out and apply as soon as you can: NerdWallet
EXAMPLE – While Traveling in Mexico, a client was making a large purchase and her credit card would not work. To protect her, the card company had been afraid of fraud and declined the purchase. The phone number on her card for international calls would not work from this locals’s shop. Luckily she had the local telephone number to call and clear up the confusion.
EXAMPLE – A client gave the ship her credit card to charge all of her onboard purchases. They had not checked their spending limit and had as yet had not paid their monthly bill. The morning they were to disembark she hears her name called over the ship’s loud speaker to please go to the Guest Services (or what used to be called Pursers Desk). They were not going to be allowed to disembark until they talked with the credit card company and arranged payment. Or, until they gave the ship another card to use. or they paid their bill in cash.
Foreign Currency for Your Cruise
We always suggest that you check to see if US dollars are accepted in the country you are traveling to. You would be surprised where it is NOT. Or, where it is highly discouraged. In some countries, it is the Official “Medium of Exchange”, meaning the official currency. And other countries it is called “Quasi Currency”, meaning they will accept US Dollars, but it is not the country’s currency.
The reason we have you do this on day 26 is because we want to give you time to apply for another credit card if you need it, or to order currency from your bank. You can do currency exchanges in the airports, countries you are in, sometimes aboard the ship or in currency exchange offices around the US. But, the best exchange rate and fewest fees you will find are in a large US bank or your credit union. Many guests wait and do it aboard the ship. Warning! You will get zapped on the exchange rate and fees!
If you are traveling to the Caribbean, or Canada you may not need to exchange your currency. But for Europe, Asia and most other continents you do. And note! Cuba does not take either credit cards or US currency! So, you have to exchange your currency into their currency.
Here is link to see if the US dollar is the Official Medium of Exchange: Investopedia
Don’t get stuck in a port without money to spend!
Why do we always exchange some money? Because small purchases while out of the country are always easier done in the local currency. Say you want to grab a soda or water in the local drug store. Or, you want to buy postcards and stamps. Yes, people still do this! Consequently, using your credit card for these small purchases may end up costing you so much more. Or worse, they may not take a CC for a small purchase.
And let’s say you want to use the local transportation, or a taxi. You will need cash. Hint, if you want to barter, it is much easier in the local currency. And truly, it’s fun! You get a whole new experience when you live like the locals do! So, we usually take between $75 and $100 dollars in the local currency to play with. You can always exchange it back at your bank when you return to the US.
Currency Conversion Tips for Your Cruise
Check your app store. We always carry a cheat sheet in our wallets, too! Write the currency equivalents of $1, $5 and $10 US dollars so that you can quickly see what the cost is of what you are buying.
Last summer we sailed to 9 European countries! We had currency and cheat sheets for each! Now that was fun!